Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2022

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Gregory Howard

Second Committee Member

Michael Swacha

Third Committee Member

Kirsten Jacobson


This thesis project is titled “Becoming Oriented: Queering Bodies and Space in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Paradise.” It attempts to explore how and why bodies and space(s) become oriented towards one another. Key ideas in this thesis are: bodies, space, becoming, potential, queer/queering, normativity, knowledge, narrative, race, and gender.

In exploring how and why bodies and space become oriented towards one another, this thesis is primarily concerned with constructing a conceptual framework of orientation. As such, part of its construction includes a variety of scholars (i.e., Sara Ahmed, Kirsten Jacobson, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Emily S. Lee, Sigmund Freud, Sara Robinson, etc) within, generally, the fields of phenomenology, feminism, and the gothic, which often intersect. Namely, this thesis will act as if these scholars are seated at the same table in which I present a queer/queered/queering methodology to orientation as inspired by Sara Ahmed. Queer/queered/queering will function as the ability to be or make strange or unfamiliar, queer identity (i.e., LGBTQ+), and as an activity that often requires bodies and space to participate in.

This conceptual framework will then be put in conversation with three selected pieces of literature: The Haunting of Hill House, Beloved, and Paradise. When situated in conversation, each text will offer a critical lens to queer/queered/queering orientation. In other words, each chapter will focus on one selected text and one register of orientation: queering normativity and queer positionality in The Haunting of Hill House (Chapter 1); queered/queering knowledge as informed by race and gender in Beloved (Chapter 2); queering narrative in Paradise (Chapter 3).

Ultimately the goal of this thesis is to illuminate how a conceptual framework allows readers to reconsider literature as a site for social change, social participation, and personal reflection. Namely, the conceptual framework compels readers to reconsider their complicity of reproducing established norms by offering a queer/queering lens. As such, a bridge is formed from conceptual-lived framework(s), fiction-reality, reader-writer, and so forth.

Available for download on Monday, September 30, 2024